Universal 5411 - randomly won't start!

matt_southbound

Junior Member
Hi all,

I've got a 1981 Universal 5411 11HP inside my Ericson 28+. About 2 weeks ago, trying to come out of a lock after killing the engine to wait, my engine wouldn't start - very unpleasant. After a bit of troubleshooting (checking connections, trying to jump the solenoid) nothing would work, so I gave the solenoid a few taps with the hammer, and the engine came to life.

I've been cruising, and was finally able to get to a starter/alternator specialist 3 days ago. He had the starter working perfectly on the bench, and after reinstalling it, I started the engine and killed it several times to make sure it was consistent. After dropping the anchor and killing the engine for a lunch break, the starter wouldn't do anything.

Here are the symptoms: when it won't start, there is nothing. When I try jumping the starter, nothing happens, but there is a clicking sound near the battery selector switch. The problem occurs primarily when the engine is hot, after a long time motoring, but it has failed to start cold on a couple of occasions. In the beginning, it would start up again after waiting a few minutes, now I typically have to wait overnight. Tapping the solenoid with a hammer seemed to work in the beginning, but after a while, as the problem generally got worse, this did nothing (I have not tried the hammer trick since getting the solenoid repaired.

I've had the starter and solenoid looked over and repaired, and have checked and cleaned all the connections I can think of.

I just have no idea what the problem is now! Any help very much appreciated.

- Matt
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Matt,
Situations like this are worrisome and annoying, and will require good problem solving, but they can be fixed. People on this site are very knowledgeable and helpful, so if you keep us updated and don't give up, you'll get lots of suggestions to help you.
I would initially trust that the starter is ok, given that you had it checked and it worked on the bench. My strong suggestion is that you recheck the connections, especially the negative grounds. I had a crack in the the ground wire connection that opened and closed as the engine vibrated, and you can imagine the havoc that created with my electronics. You may have a similar loose or intermittent connection, especially as you have different problems when the engine is hot versus cold, so something may shift with heat expansion.
So far this is my best guess. It will be interesting to see what others suggest.
Good luck!
Frank
 
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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
We all have a favorite place to start. Mine is the buttons for ignition and glow (or key). They fail sneakily, work sometimes and sometimes not. Jump, test, cross off the list.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Following up on Frank's good advice, I once found a crack in one of the ground cable swaged-on connections. It might have lasted longer, but I replaced that cable anyway.

Every few seasons, it is also good to remove those large cables from the 'grounding stud' on the bell housing. Clean all the mating surfaces with solvent, sand with emory cloth, and put the nut back on with a good lock washer.
 

Tom Metzger

Sustaining Partner
We all have a favorite place to start. Mine is the buttons for ignition and glow (or key). They fail sneakily, work sometimes and sometimes not. Jump, test, cross off the list.

Along with the switches Christian mentioned there is the #16 yellow/red wire from the start button to the solenoid which should be upgraded to #10. This small wire along with old switches provides marginal voltage to the solenoid.

Way back when, I wrote up a blurb on modifying the wiring on Universal diesel engines which gave details on a simple way to do this along with some other very beneficial improvements. Christian was good enough to repost it a few years ago.

http://www.ericsonyachts.org/infoex...Wiring-Modifications-How-To&p=83793#post83793
 

Pnelson

Member I
Matt, maybe a different angle to look at. I haven't had this problem with my M25, but I have an old GTO that developed the same problem, wouldn't start when it got hot, but always turned right over when it cooled off. Turns out the starter solenoid got too hot because a heat shield came off. Maybe you could place a fan to blow across the starter next time you are out. If that works I would look at replacing the solenoid with a new one, I was told that an older solenoid can get heat sensitive.
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
As everyone is saying, work through it systematically and test each component... there aren't all that many parts.
When I've had the solenoid clicking but no starter action, the problem has been worn contacts inside the solenoid, which are not hard to replace. But you can test that with a conductivity meter.

Then there was the flaw in early-70's Ford v8's, such that the starter didn't engage when hot, due to metal expansion. But that made a "zipping" sound from gears not quite meshing. I spent many a cold lonely night in my teens, waiting for the :mad: motor to cool down enough to start.
 

ddoles

Member II
I had the same problem last year and went through some of the same troubleshooting. Checked connections, cleaned surfaces, etc., but still had the problem of random non-starting. Following advise posted somewhere on this site, I then replaced the starter switch. That solved the problem completely. An easy and relatively inexpensive solution. If you have an original starter switch I would definitely replace it.

Good luck

Dave
 

matt_southbound

Junior Member
Thanks for all the replies. Despite having checked the cables many times, I took the advice here and checked again. Went around with a voltmeter while the engine was hot (probably should have been doing this all along, as that's when the trouble occurred most of the time), and found there wasn't a good connection from the engine block to the negative battery terminal, but it was fine across the cable. Turns out that the cable was bolted on to the bracket that held the fuel filter, and that bracket was connected to the engine with a single point of contact, and that's where the corrosion was. Took it off, clean it, tightened it up, and now my engine starts every time.

The relief is overwhelming! Thanks for the help!
 

Pat O'Connell

Member III
5411 Ground

Thanks very much that is the way we are grounded too. Not very good :<{((( Butt easy to fix.
Best Regards
Pat O'Connell
1981 E28+ Universal 5411
 

jreddington

Member III
Along with the switches Christian mentioned there is the #16 yellow/red wire from the start button to the solenoid which should be upgraded to #10. This small wire along with old switches provides marginal voltage to the solenoid.

Way back when, I wrote up a blurb on modifying the wiring on Universal diesel engines which gave details on a simple way to do this along with some other very beneficial improvements. Christian was good enough to repost it a few years ago.

http://www.ericsonyachts.org/infoex...Wiring-Modifications-How-To&p=83793#post83793

I followed this same modification after years of iffy starting. Going to larger gauge wiring, the starting reliability to me then bordered on miraculous. Also included the mod where you don't have to simultaneously hold glow plug and start buttons. How did I live with it that way for all those years? You usually only need the glowplug for the first start of the day anyway.

Later, I also added an auxiliary start button just inside the door under the sink. Makes priming and general troubleshooting a whole lot easier.

Your symtoms seem to go beyond this, but while you are poking around in there "it wouldn't hoit".
 
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